How Hamilton lost out to Vettel while Perez influenced key decisions
Strategy Report
Posted By: James Allen  |  20 Mar 2012   |  1:45 pm GMT  |  167 comments

The Australian Grand Prix got the new season off to a great start and showed that the race strategy side is going to be as vital as ever to a good outcome.

In this first Strategy Report of the year we will look at how Jenson Button was able to dominate the race by taking priority in strategy decision making at McLaren, while Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull used good strategy and a piece of opportunism with the safety car to steal second place away from Lewis Hamilton.

We will also see how, for the second consecutive year, Sauber’s Sergio Perez was a trailblazer, covering the race with just one stop and his performance on the medium tyre in the first stint changed the thinking of many of the top teams about how to approach the race.

Analysis of Key Strategy Decisions: Albert Park, Melbourne, March 18 2012

As the first race of the season the Australian Grand Prix is always something of a test case for how race strategies have been affected by new generation of tyres and rule changes, such as the one banning the exhaust blown diffuser.

This weekend we saw clearly that the 2012 Pirellis are more suitable race tyres for F1 than last year’s; they allow the drivers to push a bit more and they wear differently from the 2011 versions, which would wear quickly along the shoulder, whereas the 2012 models wear evenly across the tyre, which is positive and makes them slightly more predictable. But performance still drops sharply if you stay on them too long.

The expectation going into the race was that the leading drivers would do a two stop race, starting on used soft tyres, taking a second set of used softs at the first stop around lap 19 and then pitting for medium tyres around lap 39.

McLaren vs Red Bull: How Button got the upper hand and Vettel beat Hamilton

McLaren controlled the race from the front row of the grid and the victory was only threatened 22 laps before the end, when the safety car neutralized the field and removed Button’s lead, with Vettel right behind him. Lewis Hamilton didn’t have the pace to stay with Button and some bad luck with strategy cost him second place. Both drivers had to be careful on fuel saving as well, according to the team boss Martin Whitmarsh, due to starting with an aggressively low fuel load.

The start was the decisive moment. Hamilton had qualified on pole, but Button had gained the strategic advantage over his team mate by winning the start, which meant that he had first call on when to pit.

He made his first stop on lap 16 and moved onto the medium tyre. This meant Hamilton had to come in a lap later. Hamilton’s tyres were already going off significantly and he lost 3.4 seconds on lap 16 and on his in-lap to the pits on lap 17. He lost a further 1.4 seconds on his out lap. Worse still, he rejoined behind Raikkonen and Perez, who was on the medium tyre and one-stopping. By the time he passed Perez he was 11 seconds behind Button. More significantly, Vettel had gained seven seconds on him through this period. The world champion also stopped at the ideal moment – lap 16 – before the tyre performance dropped off and was now just two seconds behind Hamilton. This time lost for Hamilton would prove decisive at the second stops. Vettel had opted for the soft tyre, while Hamilton and Button were on medium.

With an 11 second gap between Button and Hamilton at the end of the second stint and the tyres going off on both cars, the McLaren team decided to pit both of their cars at the same time, on lap 36. Their in laps were identical, but Hamilton’s out lap was 3 seconds slower than Button’s, meaning he was vulnerable to Vettel.

People have questioned the wisdom of pitting the two cars on the same lap and it’s something that McLaren have been working on, as it’s hard to achieve and requires a very well drilled pit crew, to have the second set of tyres ready to go. Being able to double stop has significant strategic advantages in multi-stop races, where an extra lap on fading tyres can cost a lot of time. But in a two stop race, it was an interesting decision to try it.

The Red Bull team had seen McLaren stopping, but left Vettel out as he was lapping faster than the McLarens at that point.

So he was on target to jump Hamilton at the second stops anyway, but it was guaranteed when the safety car was deployed as Petrov’s car had broken down on the pit straight.

Vettel dived into the pits from the lead and rejoined in between the McLarens, ahead of Hamilton. From 6th on the grid after a disappointing qualifying session, Vettel had made the most out of the opportunity presented to him by McLaren and Hamilton.

Perez blazes a trail – again!

The total time needed for a pit stop at Albert Park is 25 seconds, which is one of the longest of the year. This is because the pit lane is long and the speed limit is just 60km/h, rather than the usual 100km/h, for safety reasons. This encourages drivers to do less stops rather than more. Even though Raikkonen, for example, had three sets of new soft tyres at his disposal, he didn’t go for a three stop sprint strategy because of the time that would be lost in the pits.

So from outside the top ten there were always going to be a few cars that would start on the medium tyre and try to get to lap 28 or 29, then switch to the soft. The front runners would never have planned to do this as simulations showed it to be 20 seconds slower than a 2 stop if you can run in clear air.

Last year Sergio Perez did a one stop race and finished seventh (although he was later disqualified for rear wing irregularities). It was assumed that several drivers would try this. In the event only three started on the medium tyre: Perez, Vergne and Petrov. Vergne did a two stopper, but Perez managed to go from 22nd on the grid to finish 8th. More importantly his pace around the time of the leaders’ first pit stops showed that the medium tyre as not only more durable than the soft, but was fast too.

Going into the race the strategists knew that on one single qualifying lap the soft tyre had been 0.8secs faster than the medium. But they believed that in the race that gap would be smaller, probably around 0.5 seconds. If you had a new set of options – as Raikkonen did for example – that was a faster choice than a new set of mediums. But the gap between the two tyres turned out to be so close that if you only had used softs, as all the front runners had, then a new set of mediums was better for most.

With the leaders forced to stop as early as lap 16, Perez was lapping comfortably in the 1m 33s which convinced several strategists that the medium was the best tyre to be on that day. Webber went to it first, followed by Button, Hamilton and Alonso. Vettel, Raikkonen and Kobayashi went for soft. The Japanese driver then underlined Sauber’s gentle action on the tyres by extending his middle stint on softs to 23 laps; longer than Alonso managed on new mediums in the Ferrari !

Perez’ strategy saw him rise to second place by lap 20 before the tyre started to really go off – he dropped five places and ten seconds in three laps as the cars that had pitted for new tyres overtook him. But he made his only stop on lap 24 and drove to the flag on a set of new options. He was racing Maldonado, Rosberg, Kobayashi and Raikkonen and finished 8th, having started at the back of the grid. The Sauber’s ability to run long stints on the tyres will bring them plenty of points this year.

The UBS Race Strategy Report is written by James Allen with input and data from strategists from several teams.


The zero line represents the winner’s average lap speed. This graph shows the lap times of all the competitors relative to that lap time.

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I believe Lotus has more pace than it looked. On Lap 14, Kimi Raikkonen running in 5th finally found free air in front of him and clocked 1:33.066s. At the same lap here are times of top four:

Button: 1:34.164

Hamilton: 1:34.255

Vettel: 1:33.685

Maldonado: 1:33.944

Yes, Kimi Raikkonen had fresh option whereas the others' tyres were 3 lap older, but still it's a very good sign that Lotus has pace. Alonso had fresh option as well and he had to pit in Lap 13 after starting to lap 1:34s. Lotus is clearly faster than Mercedes and Ferrari, and I reckon they are there or thereabout. We know McLarens were pacing themselves and could go a tad quicker, but still.

I must admit Maldonado and Williams is no slouch either.


If there was no safety car, I reckoned that Kimi would have done better in the second stint and jumped more cars on track before Pastor's incident.

Let's find out in Sepang soon!


yeah if both Roman and Kimi have good qualifying sessions in Malaysia I think that'll be one of the most fascinating parts of the weekend. Kimi going out in Q1 robbed us of a chance to check them out fully, and if a guy with about 3.5 GPs to his name can stick it in front of every car except the McLarens imagine what a world champion can do! I think they were really overlooked this weekend.


James, Do you think Mercedes will be able to cure this tyre degradation issue which has haunted them for some time now?


It was a stunning performance by Alonso in that dog of a car, also Sebastian Vettel was really good in scar that had no right to split the Mclarens, he kept them honest and beat Hamilton whilst driving a slower car, he's a true champion and along with Alonso they are the best 2 drivers in Formula 1 right now.


Alonso was helped by the safety car. Without it the Williams would of got past as Alonso's tyres went off. Indeed he may have been on a 3 stop strategy which would of put him further down the field.

The lack of reliability and high tyre wear took Mercedes out of the equation so clearly Alonso finished in a par position. Nothing " stunning" about that.


I am not sure if you did watch the race. Alonso was 4th, still about 4 seconds ahead of Webber before he made his final stop, the Williams was further back. Webber made his final stop after the safety car and he got ahead of Alonso and the Williams just closed up behind Alonso because of the safety car laps. I just can't see the safety car did any help to Alonso in this case.


Well that's what I was thinking too- Schumi, and Grosjean were out very early; Kimi started behind Alonso; Safety car also helped matters. All that assistance, and a fifth place is being hailed?


I can't see your point. Alonso finished the race behind Mclaren and Red Bull with a bad car. That's quite impressive. Don't you think? If Mercedes, Williams, Lotus didn't finish in front of him, that speak volumes about Fernando and how good he is.


also he was 8 seconds or so ahead of webber before safety car.

ok webber i think would of caught him quite easily, but he would of been racing webber not the williams without the SC.


I agree, and Vettel did a good job getting around Perez faster than Hamilton did too.


Nice work. Just for clarity, you say Hamilton lost 3 seconds on his out lap relative to Button at the second stops. The safety car came out on their out laps and that huge time difference was surely due to Hamilton having to be in 'slow down mode' earlier in that lap than Button.


Regarding the pitstops between Hamilton and Button, although i agree that the driver infront should receive first choice, i think the team should be allowed to overrule this if it means that their lower placed driver retains their position. Button pitting a lap earlier than he did in the first round of stops would not have significantly harmed his race but would have guarenteed a Mclaren 1-2.


Hamilton wasn't fast enough, simple acceptance.


Fast enough for what? to beat Button? is anyone disputing that?


This thought crossed my mind at the time of the race. It's pretty common knowledge the Button is normally better on tyres than Hamilton so seemed silly to follow the team strategy and hold him out while he was struggling.


Yeah, but it also could end in a McLaren 2-3 with Vettel in front if the safety car would come a lap earlier, or a lap later, or... too much "ifs" and "ors" here I guess, that's why they made the right call.


Button was unstoppable. Not a chance Vettel would catch him. And anayway, Button would at most lose a second over the entire race. Hamilton lost around 3 seconds in the first pitstop alone, and as a result was left behind Perez.


Agree. Had LH pitted a lap or 2 earlier (thus overriding the "team" strategy) he'd definitely had protected P2 from Vettel.

I agree the leading driver should get priority to choose WHEN to pit, but if he decides to delay his 1st stop to the detriment of the teammate in P2, shouldn't the team strategist be in a position to say "hey we wanna get max points and must pit the P2 guy a lap earlier in order to secure 2nd place"? Had this been the case at the 1st stop then LH would never had to contend with slower 1 stoppers and lose out to Vettel in the 2nd stop when the SC came out. Of course McLaren wouldn't be able to "double stop" but that's another game.


I agree, they must have known that Hamilton was going to come under pressure from vettel.... Vettel certainly seemed to think it was a given.

It's not as if they couldn't let Jenson pass the pits and then call Hamilton in.They would have had a whole lap to complete hamiltons pitstop....

I guess some of this is hindsite though.


That's easy to say 2 days after the race. But when you are in the tick of it and you only have a few second to make the call, its not that simple.

Compromising the leaders race to help his lower placed team mate could have lost them the win.


I know i know, hindsight is a wonderful thing. But you do see it quite regularly. The team should aim to have both drives pitted before the tyres are out of life, whatever that takes, as a priority. Then the decision of who pits first should go to the driver that is ahead.


Great analysis James, thanks.

However, I get the impression that had Lewis gone past Button in the first corner, then the pit calls and strategy would suit him enough to win the grand prix. Lewis complained about his pace. I read somewhere that maybe he was 2 tenths slower per lap. Is that true? Or was his pace similar/better to/than Button if you exclude the overall strategy and pit calls?


Did you not see the race? Jenson was quicker throughout the whole race. lewis's pace was slower before and after pit stops. Lewis for whatever reason just wasn't on it on race day. Both drivers were fuel saving from 10 or so laps into the race. Jenson mustve handled that better. Indeed Jenson finished the race with fastest lap.


I'm wondering if Button over performed or Hamilton under performed.. The 3 seconds difference in the out lap is astonishing.

It look like Hamilton pulled a Massa and drove unconvincingly after the first corner set back. I don't understand why he looked so depressed after the race. He finished on the podium and he is driving the most competitive car on the grid.

Its impressive how Button raised his game, he really has a decent shot at the title. Even Whitmarch seems to be in awe when he talks about him.

Also its good to see Red Bull eating some humble pie 🙂


That 3 seconds difference is due to the timing of the safety car.


I read that, makes sense.


+1 on RBR.


'I’m wondering if Button over performed or Hamilton under performed.. The 3 seconds difference in the out lap is astonishing.'

I think Hamilton driving style is not suitable with Pirelli tyres. Looks like Lewis is not as adaptable if you compare him to Alonso and it shows.

Am really happy the Vettel dominance is over. But it's only one race so far.


I was wondering whether this is the first time Button has beaten Hamilton purely on pace? Certainly in terms of victories I think there have always been circumstances which have allowed Jenson to gain an advantage. Under normal, dry conditions it has always seemed that Lewis has the speed advantage.

The next race or two will be very interesting to see if Jenson has found something this season or if it was just a one-off.


What difference would it make even if it was the first time he had been beaten by Jenson purely on pace? FYI Lewis has been beaten by a team mate fair and square in the dry before, his name Fernando Alonso. It's something that Lewis has overcome before. Looks like Jenson fans have started to underestimate Lewis!


I've already said what difference it makes - the dynamic between the two will have changed. Lewis has always been seen as the fastest of the two, possibly the fastest of the whole field. If Jenson is starting to be able to offer him a challenge on speed as well as being able to out-think him then if offers a whole new challenge to Lewis.

Comparing this season to his first with Fernando isn't that equal - Fernando was an established champion and Lewis was in his first season. It is indeed almost a role reversal, Fernando was expected to dominate then and Lewis showed he was his match, Lewis is expected to dominate McLaren now but Jenson is rewriting that script.

When it comes to favouring a driver I will admit I would choose Jenson over Lewis but not by much - I much prefer to see a good, close contest and the backstory is much more interesting than who wins on the day. If Lewis fights back then he'd get my support so playing the fan card doesn't work well here I'm afraid.


Button beat Hamilton many times in 2011. I think that trend will continue in 2012. There will be 2 or 3 races that Button will probably struggle with his car setup but on a whole he should finish with more points than Hamilton.


Button will not beat Lewis this year without a helping hand from Withmarsh it just won't happened. This championship got Lewis name all over it, and the best Button can expect this year is fourth behind alonso.

This is how its going to play out.

1st Hamilton

2nd Vettel

3rd Alonso

4th Button


Maybe it is just my perception of the last two seasons then. I always got the impression that if conditions where changeable or someone rolled the dice then there was a good chance Jenson would come out on top. If the race was normal, dry and nothing out of the ordinary happened then he couldn't live with Lewis's pace.

Personally, I'll be glad if Jenson does dominate the team again but if he does then I wonder what that will mean for Lewis - the up and coming wonderkid image is in serious danger.


Last year in Suzuka Button beat Hamilton (and won) fair and square.


it is certainly one of just a few races where button won in mclaren in dry qyalifying and dry race.

Most others with maybe 1 exception (dont remember exactly) came in fluke conditions.

(maybe the wet practice threw the balance of uncertainty in his favour!!??!!??)


Stephen, what about Suzuka 2011?


Red Bull eating humble pie? With a slower car they beat one of the McLarens.

That is a slap in the face of McLaren.


They beat McLaren because of the timing of the safety car.


The bulls threw the pie against the wall judging by the comments from Vettel and Horner after the race. More like sour grapes than humble pie.
Red bull seem to be all fur coat no knickers, behaved with an arrogance beyond belief and no class whatsoever.


I think your article creates more questions than gives answers

1) Why was Hamilton slower than Button to his out laps from the pits? U state the fact, but u do not give any logical explanation. Since the tyres they used for their out laps were the same, then why was Hamilton slower.

2) You say that the safety car guaranteed that Vettel would jump Hamilton, but again you give no logical explanation for the why this is the case. Did the safety car slowed down only Hamilton after he was exiting the pits and not vettel who was entering them? And if so then why the safety car did not delay Button as well?

3) You say that the frontrunners would not try 1 pit stop strategy because it is slower. But you give no reason why the midfield would try a slower strategy. Is it because cars at the midfield are afraid of being stuck in traffic and they try the one stop to have less traffic? Is it that some of the midfield cars can treat their tyres in a more gentle way than the top teams as they have less downforce and therefore use less the tyres? Is it something else.

I would be happy if you explained




Thanx for all the answers 🙂


Remember both Mclarens where driving to delta when the safty car was out. Vettel did not have to slow down to this speed because he was coming in and not completing a lap.


1) Sorry but I'd need to look more into the data to find this one out.

2) When the safety car is out, you have to drive slower. Sector times are checked to make sure you don't go too fast (McLarens were caught out in Canada last year).

Because of when the safety car came out, Hamilton had most of a lap that he had to drive slower. Vettel's lap just before pitting would have been around his normal time.

3) You're right here. If you're going to be stuck in traffic, from taking a normal strategy, you might as well try something different and get clean air. If your car can manage the tyres, keep up relatively good pace, and has open air, you might as well just one-stop.


I can asnwer some of these.

1 & 2. When the safety car comes out everyone has to slow down to a pre set time. The leaders were already approaching the end of the lap when the SC was sent out and since Hamilton was 10s behind Button at the time he had more of the track to cover at the slow speed, loosing time. Vettel had also yet to pit but was just coming up to the pit entry when the SC was sent out, so he didn't have to slow down much before going in. He was too far behind Jenson before the stops to jump him for the lead but since he wasnt far behind Hamilton he was able to get ahead.

3. The perfect strategy that these simulations work out is always dependent on the car running in clear air the whole race. In reality this strategy can be quite easily comprimised by a poor start, safety car period at certain times, traffic around pitstops, car charecteristics and probably many other factors. For the lead group they have less to worry about in this regards as they are more likely to find themselves in clear air, but the mid field is seriously cut and thrust and a strategy that is theoretically slower might get a driver in front of some opponents at one stage with the hope that he can then defend from there on out.


Due to the safety car didn't Hamilton have to complete most of the lap under the 'delta time' which the drivers have to slow down to. This had no effect on Vettel as he was further up the track in the final sector and went into the pits, and therefore did not have to slow his pace.


Vettel slowed down, he had to. If you have a recording of it (BBC) go back and look at it. Vettel was already going slowly in those last 3 or 4 corners before going into the pits. He did not slow down only after he went into the pits.

Seriously, if Vettel had been able to go at top speed while the Mclarens were stuck at the safety car delta times, even for just one sector and then gained more time through the pits, he would have come out in front of Jenson too because he was less than 12 seconds behind before the pit stops.

Vettel gained all his time on Lewis in the pits because he lost a lot less than he otherwise would have.


1 From the race pace charts it looks as though Hamilton got stuck behind Perez for three laps after his pit stop, looks like he was saving fule, or having problems warming up the tires for another couple of laps, then he was quicker than button

2 hamilton had pitted and needed to slow down when the safety car came out, which meant vettel lost a lot less time in the pits

3 Sauber is gentle on it's tires and Perez amplifies this with his driving style. Starting far back of the grid meant he had nothing to loose and could try a radical strategy


1) There is the suggestion above that Hamilton was slower because the safety car came out earlier in his outlap than Button's. This should account for 1-2 seconds worth of the gap.

2) The ground lost pitting under a safety car is less for two reasons:

a/ The cars on track are travelling slower, so the 25 seconds lost corresponds to less track distance than under normal running. Additionally, cars running from pit entry to exit on the track will also take longer.

b/ Cars on the track have to slow down to match set sector times. A car on an inlap doesn't register a time for the sectors covering the pit entry and exit, so effectively does not have to slow down under the safety car for these sections.

3) A big part of the midfield tends to run in heavy traffic for the first stint, so can't extract the full pace of a two-stop strategy. See, eg:


Just about everything on Vettel's inlap when the safety car was deployed happened at the normal race pace, including the pitstop itself. His pit stop time is the same safety car or no safety car because it is already significantly slower due to the speed limit.

Vettel was gaining on both Mclaren drivers even as they were changing his tyres because he was loosing less than he should have been with the Mclarens stuck at the safety car delta times.

Mclaren were actually lucky not to have Vettel come out in front of Button too.


In fact I do not agree with Gary Anderson and others who say Vettel gained on Lewis because he didn't have to slow down on his inlap. I have just been watching the race again (BBC coverage) and Vettel clearly slowed down in that last sector. You can see it and can also hear from the engine sound that he had slowed.

Vettel gained time on Lewis in the pits. Even as his car was 100% stationary, he was loosing less with Lewis not able to go at top speed as would have otherwise been the case.


I think Hamilton was slower than Button on their out laps because he simply slowed down earlier in his lap due to the safety car.

Vettel was guaranteed to jump Hamilton because Hamilton have had to adhere to the specified lap time for the safety car, however Vettel was coming into the pits and his lap time would inevitably be slow, so he did not need slow down during his inlap.

I think the reason Perez tried the one stop, was due to the fact his sauber is good on its tyres and he started so far back, he didn’t have a lot to loose by trying the one stop. The strategy is a big risk and I think it’s a gamble on the misfortune of others.

I’m no expert, and I’m probably wrong but I hope this helps. 🙂

Great article James, love this site!


I think LH was delayed by slow cars/lap traffic on his out laps, which JB managed to avoid, by virtue of his lead.


vettel had to drive in "pacecarmode" for maybe 2km - hamilton almost about the double ... but also because hamilton before was already about 10sec behind button, and vettel only about 2 sec behind ham...



1) & 2)

It was just a matter of bad luck for McLaren and Hamilton. When the safety car was sent out it was just the wrong time for Hamilton as it affected all of his out-lap, whereas it only affected part of Vettle's in-lap (he was towards the end of it). That's why Hamilton ended up losing so much time and finding himself behind the RB car after the pit stop rounds were done.

3) When you are thinking about strategy you factor in the grid position and how likely you are to run in traffic. As JA said, if the car is running in CLEAN AIR (that's the crucial information) a 1 stop strategy is slower than a 2 stopper. Having more or less downforce isn't the only thing that determines if the car is gentle on tyres. In some cases less downforce is bad for tyre wear as it causes more spin and more tyre deg.



I believe Massa was the first to take on the Medium Tyres, but I take it you were referring to the top 10 when you made that statement.

Makes sense now why Alonso had so much pace in the first few laps, must have started on the set of new softs he saved because of the qualifying error.



thanks for the excelent insight into McLaren using the same lap pitting of the cars for strategic advantage, something that will ONLY work if there is a gap between the two cars. So what is the key delta here to pull it off? Pit stops are under 3 seconds so is that all is required or is it closer to 5?

Second I think you missed something about Button and that is to do with tires. Somehow he could get heat in straight away (and build a gap) and Hamilton in the same car could not.

Button did it at the start and the restart under the saftey car. I speculate the differnce is tire pressure and setup.

As Button is less hard on tires he can change those two elements to get more heat in, more quickly, and then not over cook and blister the tires by careful driving once a gap is made.

If my speculation is correct then Button holds a key advantage over Hamilton this season, especially if he made it work at the first race (IE points advantage, gets in Hamiltons head and knows it can really work elsewhere - tracks with higher wear rates).

If Hamilton starts better, Button then pushes him and Hamiltons tires fade quicker and again Button has the advantage of going longer with his set of tires. IE Hamilton does not get the life he needs to run his tire stratgey optimally.


He wont be able to go long if he is behind Lewis by the time of the first pit stops, because Lewis will simply pull out the gap on the new tyres, unless Jenson is on a different strategy, neither will he be able to pit first because he does not get first call on pit strategy. On the same strategy, qualifying and track position in the first stint will be key.


Lewis last year used his tyres faster than jenson at the first races, but then he got acclimatised and jenson would not have that advantage later on the season. Since the tyres changed again, Lewis will have to go through this process again, but I expect him to do it quicker this time as he had last year's experience.


Surely it's a bit premature to read so much into the season after one race, no? If one could extrapolate all that, then it should also hold that Button will have the WDC wrapped up, and McLaren the WCC. But of course we all know it's too soon to make such predictions.

I think by race 4 or 5 there will be more data to reach conclusions. And even then that might be premature.


I'm not certain on this but I've read button accepted he might not achieve pole and focused entirely on a race set up with his engineers, whereas Lewis had focused on traditional qualifying pace. In the end jenson was actually close enough to grab second and hamiltons poor start meant it was fairly inevitable that jenson could keep opening the gap once in clean air.

So a mixture of different strategies, some good driving and some luck - just like most wins. Jenson seemed to find the sweet spot where he could heat the tyres fast enough to put in quick laps from the start of each stint but also to avoid the collapse Hamilton faced prior to his pitting (I recall Lewis coming on the radio feed to explain his rears were totally shot and his engineer explaining they needed several more laps yet).


Great piece James as always, thanks. Might be going a little off topic here but I am interested to know how much I missed by not having Sky. I realise you now have a stake in the BBC position James but a comparison would be of interest. A couple of things I noticed were no clear showing of Vettel rejoining ahead of Hamilton and also what happened to Kovalainen and where did he get the penalty? I have been watching every race in full since the mid 80's and love absorbing all of the details. I cannot afford Sky and was hoping the BBC would be a bit more painstaking in their hatchet job for the highlights. Also really missing the driver tracker. Will that still be available free for the races the Beeb cover live?


I don't believe the BBC are making the 'hatchet job' of the feed. They seem to get it delivered to them by FOM after the race, as the commentary seemed to flow nicely across the ragged cuts. I'm guess Ben/DC are making notes to discuss during the live race and then recording afterwards.

Either that or the BBC sound mixers are fantastic...

Sky's pre/post show race is v. scrappy at the moment (think BBC in 2009) so you're not missing much there. Some of their content was massively inappropriate, approaching rude.

Shame the racing is the important bit.


No, they are doing it as live in the comm box next to us. The editors then cut down the race.


James, they are cutting down the race only for UK?

Here in Canada we are watching it alive as always.


Apparently some other countries are still taking the BBC TV commentary live, aren't they?


Yes. But not Australia


Why don't you download the race hour after? I live in Mexico, and the feeds we get here are absolutely crap.

I've been downloading races for a few years now. You can watch it live in what-you-get, or on some site that has the feed, and then watch it in full glory on sky. You could even watch it whole after you download it, providing you don't find out earlier who won...


Depending on where you're at this might be of value for watching.


With Sauber being soft on it's tyres and using Ferrari engines I wonder if the Ferrari designers will be popping round to the Sauber garage to glean some tips from them.


Ferrari should be asking Toro-Rosso-Ferrari for help also!!!!


They may end painting the sauber red and race with it


Apple used some Samsung software in their iPhones or in the iPad 3...dont remember exactly. Do you reckon Samsung would allow Apple to get into their labs to get some tips from them?

I sure hope you were sarcastic...


Samsung used to have a contract with Apple to sell a number of parts used in the iPhone and they fell out over pricing (the rumours were that Apple tried to squeeze them heavily on pricing and they fell out) so they went their separate ways. That's one of the main reasons why they are so bitter with each other and are battling it out in the courts with various law suits.

and yes I was being sarcastic.


Apart from the BMW & Mercedes years, Sauber has essentially been *the* Ferrari junior team. Massa is probably the most fruitful example of it and it seems Perez may be next in line.


You missed the point completely


The most important parts of iPhones/iPads are made by Samsung. The internal chip, its heart..and the retina displays

Ferrari make the heart of the Sauber And may indeed have influence over drivers or political direction. But like Samsung, I doubt Sauber will ever give away its secrets.


+1 LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


BTW James I always enjoy looking at these graphs they provide a lot of insightful information. You can tell which cars are really struggling for pace and which cars are chewing up their tyres. I also see that on a few cars (Button, Vettal and Maldonado) that once there is an initial drop off in tyre wear at a certain point the times flatten out which to me shows that these drivers are good on their tyres and that they'll have greater flexibility with their strategies to run longer stints.


I said after Button put harder tyres on at the first stop Hamilton should have been screaming for softs; he might have been able to pass, and would have changed to hards for the last stint before Button made his change so would have had new-hards to old-hard advantage. Button would probably have passed in the closing stages, but McLaren were too willing to circulate in the position they were in at turn 1. If Hamilton had been right behind button he would have made his second stop a lap later and instead of being jumped by Vettel could have dropped in front of Button.


If's and's and but's

It was clear that Hamilton just didn't have the pace to match Button who I think still had more pace in the car that day but was preserving his tyres. So as a team manager why risk the possibility of the two teammates colliding if Button would probably overtake him again at the end of the race anyway.

If Hamilton had showed any real pace through the race then I would be tempted to agree with you.

The problem was though as soon as Hamilton put on the softs and increased his pace he chewed the tyres up after 2 or 3 laps and the performance dropped off. Button however had an overall average higher and consistent speed which you can clearly see in the graph.


While Vettel was closing in on Hamilton it really was the safety car that made it certain. Presume Hamilton had someone in front of him causing a slow outlap. I'm sure McLaren would have known about the close proximty of Vettel and given him the hurry up, but it perhaps was just not his day. Hamilton will have to put it behind him and concentrate on getting away first off the line, however the tyres are lightly to degrade faster in Malaysia at the higher temperatures there, which may impact more on some drivers than others.


"The zero line represents the winner’s average lap speed. This graph shows the lap times of all the competitors relative to that lap time."

I don't really understand the graph could someone explain it for me please.

looking at the scale it looks like lap 35 is 120s more than the average and lap 41 was about 130s less than the average. That can't be right..


er or maybe if there was a car going at the average speed for every lap, Jenson Button would have been 120s in front of it at lap 35, then on lap 41 (after safety car?) would be 130s behind

is that right?


Fantastic analysis, James, thank you so much.

After the race there was something odd happening behind the scenes.

Lewis said he couldn’t understand why he was slow, but Whitmarsh revealed in such propaganda style that McLaren made a mistake in the fuel calculations, meaning that from lap eight both cars “were in severe fuel saving mod.”

So, Lewis kept secret regard the thing about fuel, but Whitmarsh made a huge publicity of that. Odd...

My point is that even if Lewis had good tyres, he couldn’t attack Jenson having to obey at some delta time lap and fit this strategy. His hands were tied from the eight lap onwards depending only of a drop off in Jenson´s tyres to attack him.


Whitmarsh always makes grand gestures that direct blame away from the drivers.

Whether it really was a team bungle or he's keeping any disappointment with Hamilton's performance under wraps? Who knows...


Very nice write up. Seems like Hamilton should have been able to make the pass after his stop. Like you said, it cost him 2nd place.


As far as I am concerned there are big issues regarding pitting during the SC.

It's enough that driver should lose advantages gained on the track in terms of time buffers such as Button had over Vettel and then they get gifted position.

As far as I saw, in terms of pace, Vettel was a much bigger threat to Button than Lewis, however Button had the buffer of time and track position as Vettel was P3 to Button's P1.

Vettel gained again as he did in Monaco when he risked running nearly the entire race on one set with Alonso and Button crawling all over him in the knowledge that Vettel would have to pit. When he was gifted a free tyre change it made a joke out of that race.

It may well have been that Vettel would have passed Hamilton on the track or even through better pit strategy, but let's leave it as a racing gain, and not a safety car gain.

Vettel drove a great race, but boy does that guy get the run of luck.


This is an interesting point but what is the alternative?


Cruise Controls on all cars maintains the gaps while instigating safe speeds.

Done and done, next problem please.


You need to be in the right position to accept the "luck" though, i.e. Button in Canada last year when Vettel ran wide.

If the low fuel conspiracy is true then the team cost Hamilton 2nd place allowing Vettel to keep close.

I hope all the races are this close all year.


I don't feel that when Vettel ran wide under pressure is call 'Luck', should call 'Mistake'

if Button is 5 sec behind and Vettel ran wide, there is some kind of luck for Button, but he push to 1 sec and pressure Vettel. or he ran 5 sec behind Vettel would not have that mistake.


I'm appalled by the SC quite frankly. The safety car should only come out when it is absolutely necessary and IMO, we should only see it once or twice a year at that. At the very least, the FIA should make it so no one loses position because thats extremely unfair to me. The race and all positions should essentially PAUSE. Its purpose is to slow the cars down to allow time to clear the track of a danger, it should not be a lottery and allow teams to take advantage or suffer because of an accident. Thats ridiculous!

Lastly, these are the best drivers in the world, I think they can observe and notice a stranded car. The SC was NOT needed in Melbourne and typically isn't necessary. If yellow flags aren't enough, use another colored flag to signify, EXTREME CAUTION, then allow the cars to go back to racing once past the area.


Agree, I couldn't seen any car can drive even close to Petrov car parking. All car ran on the other side of the track, not even in the middle of the track.

I feel no need to brng the SC this time.


Funny how people never mention the many times Hamilton/Button lucked out with safety cars when Vettel was leading with a huge gap (Canada 2011, hello Button) yet when it happens to Vettel he is just lucky.


When did Vettel beat Hamilton/Alonso/etc. many times while in a slower Torro Rosso, sorry I can't remember.

I doesn't say he is not good, but not that good when you say he beat the other WDC in Toro Rosso.

In Monza, He did the qualify time when the track was not to wet, when Lewis/ Alonso go out , there was a rain that no one can make a good time. In the race with rain, not just wet track, he is 1st and being the only one who has clear vision on track, the other almost can't see the track.

OK, he drove well to take the win, but you can't clearly say he beat other top driver, that win come partly with luck.

Beside the win at Monza 08, I can't remember when did Vettel beat other top driver in Toro Rosso. Could you remind me, please

Sorry to say I feel that Vettel is qutie bull shit in the press conference.

He said that even no SC he could have passed Lewis on track cause he is very close to Lewis.

How could he say that, he wasn't even close to have a chance to use DRS even one time. In 2nd stint, after he got pass Perez, the gap is about 2 second and going to alomost 3 sec, never below 2 sec only the last lap before Lewis pit the gap low to 1.5 or 1.6

Even under 1 sec, doesn't mean you can pass McLaren. The gap is actually maintain at about 2 sec, is that call very close to pass Lewis.


I am a big Button fan, but I never like it when he or anyone is on the end of luck in a situation that could be more controlled by the game.

I was referring really to the opportunity to pit and not pay a penalty or to gain or as in Vettel in Monaco to not have to pit at all. Vettel ran the entire race without a pitstop.

As for Canada 2011. Button came from near last (about p19) to win that race. Wasn't exactly a lucky win.

The alternative would be to close the pitlane until everyone is behind the safety car. No one is going to run out of fuel anymore as a result.


Vettel is a great racer, and in my opinion furthered his reputation last sunday in the face of criticism that he had not done much to prove his race craft having had a very dominant car for 3 years and shown signs of struggling when having to make up track position.

He put in a very fine performance and I acknowledge that as a one time critic of his.

However, I am fairly certain that while Button and many others benefited from the SC in bunching up the field Button still wasn't gifted and positions and overtook a huge amount of cars with race craft in Canada 2011 including catching and overtaking MS, Webber and Vettel without the aid of the safety car.

I just think that it is a little unfair that Hamilton did not get the chance to defend his P2 because of Vettel's luck.

I say it again, I don't like any driver to win by pure luck or to recieve a great deal of luck I prefer to be entertained by their race skill. I am not desperate at all costs to see my favourite driver win that I would be happy to see him 'luck in' or 'cheat' to gain advantage.



Button gained >60 seconds before his "great win" in canada.... ie effectively give him a lap head start!!


Without the 2 safety cars in Canada, Button would not even have ended up in the top 7. Fact.

He also got rid of 2 of his competitors through contact and them retiring.

That was one of the luckiest wins in decades.


That's not true Vettel had a terrible pitstop at Monaco, but not nearly as shocking as the insane pitstop for Webber.


Again, you proved my point that people (mainly jaded British F1 fans) see everything through anti-Vettel glasses: Vettel gets lucky always, other drivers win through hard work.

Ok, we get it, he is just a cab driver who got lucky 😛


Maybe that's Vettel's fault to give that sort of impression to viewers lol.

It doesn't really help to feel he's lucky when he had a car like that for the past 2 seasons.

Whereas if his car is what Alonso's driving and he still manage to wrestle every drop of performance to bring it up to top 5 or so CONSISTANTLY, then people's perception would change.


Maybe those 'people' should re-watch the 2008 season. He even beat Hamilton/Alonso/etc. many times while in a slower Torro Rosso and even won a race with it... but that was all luck too obviously.

Also odd that those 'people' who have this low perception of Vettel happen to be mainly Hamilton fans 😉


In hindsight would it of been better for Perez to convert to a 2 stopper,or did the SC cancel out any advantage gained by 1 stopping?

Last year Sauber got caught out a number of times by staying out too long on old tyres.


Good report thanks. How do you think Senna did? His race pace just doesn't seem that good neither his ability to overtake slower cars?


His race was likely badly compromised by the first-corner collision. He was punted up in the air, something that rarely does these cars any good.


So you think Seb would have passed Lewis in the pit stops even without the safety car? That puts a different light on things.

Only having a highlights package to watch I missed out on the subtle differences in pace as I never knew how much had been missed at any one point.


Vettel said that even no SC he could have passed Lewis on track cause he is very close to Lewis.

How could he say that, he wasn't even close to have a chance to use DRS even one time. In 2nd stint, after he got pass Perez, the gap is about 2 second and going to alomost 3 sec, never below 2 sec only the last lap before Lewis pit the gap low to 1.5 or 1.6

Even under 1 sec, doesn't mean you can pass McLaren. The gap is actually maintain at about 2 sec, is that call very close to pass Lewis.


Hamilton should've pit on lap 15.


I recall thinking that also while watching the secter times. The only thing I could think was that they were planning for a set of softs for the final stint requiring them to get a few extra laps on the first set. When the medium tires perfromed so well it kind of made them look slow to react on the first stop.

Tornillo Amarillo

Nice James, interesting.

Strategies will play again a huge rol in Malasya. I can see there something like this as a result at this stage in a quick circuit:








val from montreal

wow Schumacher last huh ?

was'nt he running in 3rd ,controling Vettel before his DNF ?


Oh how unwise to underestimate The Kaiser 🙂


His pace was good but the Mercedes has tyre degredation issues:


Odd .... Schuey was consistantly FASTER than Rosberg, Alonso, Webber, Raikkonen, Grosjean and Vettel in Australia and i expect that will continue.













If Lewis can look after the tyres well enough. Buttons pace and racecraft could have got into Lewis's head.



Great article as always!

1) In which position (+/- gap) Vettel would have been after the second stop without the safety car?

2) Is it causing any disadvantage at a double pitstop (like McLaren did) that the second set of tyre stays longer without the warmers resulting in a cooler temperature? Could this be one the reasons of Hamilton's slower out lap compared to Button?


James, would it be possible to publish a higher definition image of the graph? It is hard to see some details.



Don't forget that Alonso lost out to Webber also during the safety car James.. But then again the Ferrari was pathetic once the safety car came in. Any information on why Alonso was so slow after the SC James... Unable to get heat in tires again?

It seems like another repeat... Sounds like Ferrari should invest in Sauber personnel so they can finally get a grip on tires....and Sauber can get some necessary funds in return??

pear-shaped pete

So did the safety car actually save the McLarens from beingf very badly compromised- running out of fuel? Maybe Vettel wasn't the only one to gain from safety car?

pear-shaped pete


Now that a good one thinking about it. But the truth is thats the usual mclaren mind games that the opposition dont care about because you cant manage a fuel problem for the entire race. Just ask Nico and mercedes


I'm a huge Hamilton fan so I'm finding it hard to watch him be so inconsistent. I think his down beat appearance after the race is deeper than Button beating him at the first corner and in the race. Button has been gloating quite regularly about how he feels at home in the team, how he's so comfortable in the team and driving better than ever. This is a very subtle psychological tactic by Button surely. I reckon this is having a greater effect on Hamilton than Buttons on track performances. Hamilon had a much more visibly combative relationship with Alonso and was well able for his pace when they drove together so that tells me it's way deeper than just Buttons performances. I wonder if he'll change teams as the rumours suggest. Maybe he needs a fresh start at Mercedes perhaps.


In 2007 Mclaren was the fastest and the most reliable car. There were accusations that year that Hamilton was been given Alonso's set ups. That year the WDC was destined for one of Mclaren drivers and yet neighter of them got it for Ron Dennis who was making Hamilton race 'Alonso' and not 'Kimi'.

My question is where is the domination and Hamilton era everyone spoke of during his debut season. Him winning the WDC in 2008 was purely down to Ferrari backing the wrong driver, for till France 2008 Kimi blew everyone away.

Simple and straight 🙂


Very interesting comments regarding stops ect. Although JB,s oppertunism is good I still think that LH was incredibly unlucky and was punished for his wheelspin at the start.I prey LH can out quallify them all this weekend and get a good start!!


I guess you didn't get the memo:

Button is faster than Hamilton, can you confirm that you understood that message? 😉


If SC cost 3s to Hamilton why he just didn't overtake it like he did once in Valencia. He would have got just another reprimand


Lewis was just beaten by a quicker driver , button is faster hope it stays that way, who will replace Lewis next year if it remains like this ?


There is something fearsome about Kimi and Mclaren combination. I hope we see that again.


Why someone should replace him? I didn't noticed Lewis underperforming.


Great to see Perez make the one stop work again and get his reward, amazing drive! Will the pitstop calculator be adjusted to reflect the longevity of the options he did 34 laps on?


One BIG thing that I saw nobody commenting...

Is it possible that without the safety car, McLaren would LOSE the race due to needing to safe fuel, while Vettel would be able to push?


No, I think Button had a big enough margin


3 seconds is not a big enough margin

pear-shaped pete

Most probably right. Well JB did have a decent gap by lap 12 or so when I first heard his pit ask him to start saving fuel;- that seems early to me. And that was a long, long safety car period.

pear-shaped pete


On what data is this belief based?

Given Rosberg's problems on the last lap using merc engine package might not the McClarens have had a similar issue?

Adrian Newey Jnr

James - It seems that for a number of years Sauber have used this strategy. Do you think this will change with the depature of their key designer?

Force India are also a fan of one-stop strategies. Do you think with the underperformance of the new car, that they will switch to this for future GPs? Or do you think this is only an issue at venues where there are longer pit times?


Perez, such a smooth driver and its seems that's his trademark in Oz.

Something strange about the new Pirelli, the performance changes when they use the same compound. It should be faster as fuel load drops.

Kamui expressed during quali when similar fresh soft compound used, behaved differently. It was very noticeable when Alonso's second stint on mediums dropped so much.

Looks like the new exhaust is causing this problem which is quite interesting.


James, I think you touch on, but slightly miss, what was happening in terms of tyre choice, and Perez's race strategy.

1. Mediums were, quite rightly, the more durable tyre and probably why Perez chose to run these first. But the track grip and abrasiveness is not constant over the entire race distance. As the track rubbers in, it makes his later use of the softs even more useful. You get more speed, and even less wear due to the grip becoming available.

2. Perez was overtaken by numerous cars before his first stop, not because he was slow - well, not really slow - but because he was obviously and deliberately not compromising his race line to keep position. He knew that by maximising his own speed, and not defending position, it would all reap benefits later. After all, he knew he was not fighting Vettel, Webber, et al within the top 5. I think you have not given Sergio enough credit for his racecraft at that point.


That second point of yours is particularly interesting, and highlights how well Perez played the game of driving "out-of-sync" against the other drivers.

And now that you've pointed that out, I'm starting to think that the only reason Perez' tyres were in such bad shape in the end was because he had to start defending against Rosberg, who was then "in-sync" with him.


I just read the Spanish sports newspaper "AS" which wrote that Hamilton was told on Sunday via Radio that he should not attempt to overtake Button, and stay on position 2 until the end of the race. Is't true? If it is, a disgraceful affair...


I think one needs to admit and extend credit when due. Button was unbeatable in Australia, a fact acknowledged by Vettel, which as rather magnanimous, I felt. Hamilton was never in a remote orbit of Button.

A lot has been said about Hamilton, sixth year in F1 and one lucky WDC... so much for being a phenom.



I'm no Hamilton fan, that's for sure, but your leaving childish anti-Hamilton comments all over the place doesn't do much to add to the respectability of JA's great site. You aren't the only one, I know, but you've ruined this particular thread with a load of infantile twaddle. Say it once, by all means, but for the sake of other readers (and your own reputation), no need to say the same thing 20 times. Give it a rest, please.

Grayzee (Australia)

He was never close enough to Button for the team to have needed that instruction..........


That would be out of character for McLaren who let their drivers race. Hamilton didn't stay in position 2 anyway, he fell to 3rd


Indeed, far from pushing for an overtake on Button, Lewis was more concerned about holding onto his own position.

Remember, not everything you hear in news media is true. There could be a bit of sh*t-stirring going on.


Great race from Button. He shows that he's a master of looking after his tyres. He's also got a very cool and wise head.

Poor Frank Williams, even he must of been convinced that he was on for points. I fell off my chair when Maldonado crashed. At that point as team boss I'd have been yelling to bring the car home, protect the team and race again another day! But that's racing...

Roll on the next 19 races, competition looks fierce. Seems to get better each year in the same way as the cars evolve each season.


The thing that stands out more than anything from the graph is just how dog-slow the Marussia's are compared with the rest... Pic's pace was slower than the average race speed right from the start! In other words, had Pic chosen to ignore the safety car when it came out and carried on at top speed he STILL would have come last!

By contrast the Caterhams are only a smidgeon off Massa, which admittedly isn't actually saying much...!


Angry bird raikkonen is really hungry this year !


Hilarious cartoon !!! 🙂

Must admit that radio message is the all time greatest in F1 ever period 🙂


Excuse me if this has already been said, no time to read all, but this so called aggressive fuel strategy from Mclaren could have led to more fuel in the lewis car James?

Because as they are still hot blowing in a way, there is an optimum between mass penalty and aéro benefit, maybe the hamilton team made another choice?

Their style is very different to so is it a possiblity? That failed of course but who knows exactly before it happens...


It's fascinating to see a ferrari powered car in the form of sauber on the option tyres being able to outlast ferrari on the primes. And this comparison was between KOB and ALO and we all know ALO handled that car superbly. He flattered ferrari by dragging that car up to 5th. We've all heard BUT after a poor race talking about balance not being right. The fact that ALO can outdrive that car and other strong teams (given the tyre comparison he still beat the saubers!) shows the level of his talents. I am a massive BUT fan but I am under no illusions, he isn't the best driver in the pack, I really think ALO takes that title. On a side note, if HAM continues this season with the attitude of last then he might find very few teams jumping to sign him up. A team boss wants someone who's head is in the game, not a driver who seems to have left his head at Snoop Dog's party!!!!


Hamilton was around 10 secs behind Button. His tyres were hitting the cliff edge before Button.

In this scenario they should have pitted Hamilton first because his tyres were gone and losing time and was no threat to Button. By keeping Hamilton out he lost the the ideal track position to slot in ahead of Kimi and Perez and was under threat from Vettel.

Now this is where I think McLaren shot themselves in the foot and cost THEMSELVES a 1-2 finish by a poor strategy error.

This is where McLaren are too rigid, had they went with the flow of the race a little more they could have adjusted better to the situation and a 1-2 would have been guaranteed.


Easy to say that but last year showes that every team favours their leading driver and will always pit him first on the ideal lap regardless to protect the best position they hold or attack the car ahead.


It's a stupid strategy though isn't it, because its not maximising the potential.

No, last year there was a race where Hamilton was leading and they pitted Button first to secure his position as he was under threat from behind.

I can't remember the exact race, someone will know. But what I haven't seen is the same done for Hamilton since Whitmarsh signed Button.

I thought this weekend would be a first when watching the live timing.


I can't honestly recall where Hamilton rejoined after his second pitstop (if he was behind someone who was out of sync or on a different strategy, therefore holding him up?), but I wondered if a knock on effect of McLaren's stacked pit stop means the second car's (in this case Hamilton) tyres cool too much due to the increased time out of the blankets? I understand why McLaren stacked the cars, I think at the time it made sense and it will probably happen more as the season goes on, but what sort of margin would be saved or lost by staying out and lapping on worn tyres relative to time lost due to cold er new tyres (if indeed they were colder!!) and the risk of the lead cars pit stop going wrong impacting on the second car?

Grayzee (Australia)

Hi James,

Once again a great analysis. For sometime time now, and Iv'e posted on this before, I have been trying to figure out this "fuel saving" thing. If they start with less fuel than they need to save weight, and are then forced to save it to comlete the race, wouldn't that negate the time they save by putting less fuel in? So, i have the following questions:

How much weight saving are we talking about?

Is it anything to do fuel tank capacity?

Is there much difference in fuel consumption between engines?

Do the teams "bank" on there being a safety car?

Hope you can help.


They don't have to save weight if there is effectively a SC,because in that situation they are forced on the contrary to desperatly consume fuel.

And the penalty with the weight is not linear as i've been told, this is a great saver especially for the tires that gives a greater comfort zone at the end


Good questions. I'll find out


So James, on the evidence of this race (n=1) is there any validation of the myth that JB takes care of his tires better than LH?

Would you be kind enough to provide evidence to refute or validate on a race-race basis?


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